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Atrial Fibrillation and Other Arrhythmias

What are atrial fibrillation and other arrhythmias?
Arrhythmia is a general term that refers to an abnormal, disordered or disorganized heartbeat. While not all arrhythmias are concerning, they all represent some kind of fundamental problem that should be investigated by a doctor. Women are more likely to develop certain types of arrhythmias than others.

Atrial fibrillation is a condition in which the top chambers of the heart (atria) quiver in a very rapid, irregular pattern. This causes an irregular and rapid heartbeat. More than two million people in the United States have atrial fibrillation, making it a very common heart rhythm disorder. Although it isn't life threatening, atrial fibrillation can lead to other heart problems, fatigue, congestive heart failure or stroke. Episodes of atrial fibrillation may come and go (paroxysmal atrial fibrillation) or they may continue for longer periods of time (persistent atrial fibrillation).

Other common arrhythmias include atrial flutter, sick sinus syndrome, sinus tachycardia, supraventricular tachycardia, ventricular tachycardia, ventricular fibrillation and premature contractions.

What are the risk factors for atrial fibrillation and other arrhythmias?
Age, certain medications, high blood pressure, diabetes, mitral valve disease, sleep apnea and thyroid disease are all risk factors for arrhythmias. People who have conditions that weaken the heart, such as coronary artery disease, congestive heart failure or congenital heart disease are also at an increased risk.

What are the warning signs?
Many arrhythmias show no signs or symptoms. When signs or symptoms are present, the most common ones are palpitations or a slow or irregular heartbeat. More serious signs include anxiety, weakness, dizziness, fainting, sweating and shortness of breath. Women with arrhythmias are generally more symptomatic than men.

How are atrial fibrillation and other arrhythmias diagnosed and treated?
Arrhythmias can generally be diagnosed through an electrocardiogram or heart monitor. However sometimes patients require additional testing including stress tests or electrophysiology testing. Treatments include medications, cardiac surgery, ablation and implantable devices. Women may respond differently or have different side effects from the drugs that are used to treat arrhythmias.

To make an appointment with a Women’s Heart NY physician, please call
(877) WOMEN-00/(877) 966-3600.

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